Do conservatives participate in riots and riotous behavior? It’s a question I’ve been pondering since the most outbreak of riots in America, Ferguson Missouri, this week. The entire notion of “We feel a miscarriage of justice has occurred, so we’re going to steal liquor and televisions” is beyond absurd and everybody knows it. This isn’t a “protest.” This isn’t an uprising of an oppressed class against a ruling class. What’s happening in Ferguson and what happens in all riots has precious little to do with the miscarriage of justice –real or imagined— which provided the flashpoint that started the fire. Even the people out doing the looting, burning and pillaging know they are in no way engaged in activities that are somehow related to the death Michael Brown.
So if they know they are doing no good for the cause, why riot? Other than the prospect of getting some free stuff (also known as stealing) while law enforcement agencies are wholly overwhelmed and hence the chances of getting caught and held accountable for one’s actions are nil, the most plausible explanation is that it’s simply a matter of herd mentality run amok. “It was going on. Everyone else was doing it. I was there, and so I did too.” Lame reasoning but reasoning never the less.
So who falls victim to such instances of herd mentality? Do people who self-identify as (politically conservative) go out and riot? While true data on the topic is basically non-existent (reporters seldom ask looters, “Are you a political conservative?”), we can examine riots that are occurring, have occurred in the past and perhaps more importantly those that did not occur, and reach some reasonable conclusions.
In January of 1973 conservatives in this nation got dealt what was arguably the biggest, most stinging blow ever when the Supreme Court issued its ruling in the landmark case of Roe v. Wade. Knowing the ruling would result in exactly what it has resulted in –tens of millions of destroyed babies—conservatives from coast-to-coast mourned the court’s decision. It was the lowest of low points. There were mass protests and demonstrations across the country. Yet nowhere were there reports of buildings being torched, mobs flipping over cars, store windows being busted in and the store shelves cleaned out by looters.
Likewise in 2012 the Supreme Court handed down a ruling that had conservatives everywhere incensed. Conservatives by and large desire a nation with less government intrusion into private lives and the Affordable Care Act with is “Individual mandate” requiring citizens to purchase health insurance or be fined was and is a robbery of personal liberty that rubbed all of us the wrong way. Feeling confident the mandate would be dismantled by the SOCTUS, conservatives everywhere waited in optimistic anticipation of the court’s ruling on National Federation of Independent Business Owners v. Sebelius et. al. on June 28. The court ruled in favor of massive government and delivered a direct kick to the teeth of American conservatives who were already thoroughly riled up from the partisan manner by which the law was passed in the first place, the accumulation of three years and a half years of “hope and change” policies and a White House seen as trampling the constitution.
June 28, 2012 none of these angry, dejected, furious, self-identifying conservatives beat anyone up. None took to the streets and broke into convenience stores. None burned anything other than that evening’s dinner.
That rioters in Ferguson are mostly liberals is a reasonable conclusion to draw. The riot is taking place in a city that consistently votes, elects and is represented by liberal politicians. Therefore we can conclude that most who live there are themselves liberal. This is not just true of the Ferguson riots it is basically true of all (American) riots. All have taken places in metropolitan areas, all cities that are liberal strongholds, and in neighborhoods within those cities that are themselves known for allegiance to and electing only liberal representation.
The website therichest .com compiled a list of 20th century riots in the United States and ranked the top ten most disastrous riots in U.S. history according to monetary damage done. Their ranking of the ten biggest riots in America was compiled by estimated insured losses of property damage, adjusted for inflation, as reported by the Insurance Information Institute. The biggest American uprisings by-the-dollar have all taken place in areas where liberalism is the prevailing governmental rule.
The number one position is held by the 1992 Los Angeles California “Rodney King verdict” riots, during which an estimated $1.268 billion (again, in 2014 dollars) worth of damage was done. A distant second also belongs to the City of Angels where in 1965 the Los Angeles Watts riot resulted in $321 million in damages. Next comes Detroit Michigan. The “12th Street Riot” took place in 1967; $289 million of damage was done. The 1980 uprising and riot in Miami Florida comes in at $181 million. Four of the so-called “Holy Week riots” following the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1968 made the list. Of the four the most expensive was Washington D.C. at $158 million.
In 1977 one of the darkest days, literally and figuratively, occurred in New York City history. On July 13, 1977 a lightning strike and powerful of storm activity caused power to fail across the city. New York plunged into blackness and opportunistic looters took to the streets of this, one of our nation’s bastions of liberalism. In just 24 hours over 1600 stores were looted and over a thousand fires burned. The 1977 New York City blackout riots resulted in $106 million in damage.
Twenty six people were killed and about 1,000 injured in the 1967 riot in Newark New Jersey which cost $103 million. Another of the “Holy Week” riots of 1968 this one in Baltimore Maryland cost $92 million. Both numbers eight and nine on the list were also a part of the Holy Week riots with Chicago’s version costing $86 million and New York City’s $26 million.
Is it fair to definitively conclude that “conservatives do not riot?” Probably not. However it is fair to conclude that riots do not take place in areas where people have elected little other than conservative-leaning representatives and that they do only take place in areas with little other than liberal-leaning representation.
Last summer a one of my organizational Directors and I attended a “Freedom Rally” in Evergreen Colorado. It was a large, very well attended event with close to a thousand in attendance and featuring a dozen speakers, myself being one. As a sponsor of the event our group had a display booth in which we had items for sale. Dozens of t-shirts, bumper stickers, pins, buttons and other assorted fare one sees at such venues. After a few hours we got hungry, walked over to the food vendor’s area about a city block away and got some hamburgers. We left the booth as-is, were gone about 30 minutes. When we returned everything was just as we’d left it. Not a thing missing save for one shirt; which someone had purchased – they left a note and a twenty dollar bill to pay for it. (The shirts were $15.) I looked at my partner and said, “Can you imagine if we’d done this at an Occupy rally? Walked a quarter mile away from our stuff and were gone for a half an hour?” He said, “There’d be nothing left.” And he probably was right.
Is it that conservatives abhor an entitlement mentality the spurs people to believe they are “owed” something and thereby allow themselves to justify their thievery? Perhaps? Is it that conservatives have more rooting in faith and faithfulness? Perhaps? Or is it some unknown seen, unknown and unknowable genetic trait? No idea. But for whatever reasons, conservatives are not the ones out rioting.